In honor of the world’s biggest sporting event, now occurring in Russia, let’s look at which of the big stars of the World Cup is winning the trademark competition. The competition, as I define it, is to show evidence of protecting the mark that is the player’s name or image.
We’ll start with Brazilian star Neymar (Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior), the last one on our list to bow out of the 2018 tournament. (Or fall down, roll around clutching his face or an appendage, and then pop up and walk out, as Neymar’s critics would say.) A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database shows that Neymar is doing better on the field (sorry, the pitch) than in the USPTO. There are no live applications or registrations for the word NEYMAR, and two dead applications filed by people who are not Neymar. A look at the World International Property Organization’s brands database shows 25 international applications and registrations containing the word NEYMAR, some of which have been abandoned. None of those indicates that it is owned by the actual Neymar personally, although several are owned by the Brazilian company Neymar Sport e Marketing S/S Ltda, which may very well have a genuine connection to the soccer star. That company has 14 active applications or registrations (10 of them in Mexico, whose World Cup hopes Neymar helped to dash), all of them for the stylized letters NJR shown below (presumably for Neymar, Jr.). There is one abandoned U.S. application for the stylized NJR mark, also filed by the Brazilian company.
Neymar, who really does get fouled a lot, in an all-too-familiar pose.
Photo by Ronnie Macdonald, “Neymar on the deck 2” used under CC BY 2.0.
Next on our list is the man who may or may not be the greatest player in the world, but who, at 5 feet, 7 inches, has a very strong claim to having the greatest concentration of soccer talent per inch, Argentina’s Lionel Messi (Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini).
Mr. Messi is ahead of Neymar in the U.S., because he has one registered mark, although not covering his name but rather the stylized letter M shown below:
That mark is registered for a variety of goods, including clothing, balls, shin guards, and mobile phone cases. There are also three abandoned U.S. applications including the name MESSI, two of which seem to have been filed by people unrelated to the soccer great.
Outside the U.S., Messi has been active, as there are 22 registrations and pending applications for marks including MESSI, many of which also use the stylized M. Most of those are in Europe and Malaysia, and also Indonesia and Chile – but, surprisingly, not Argentina. As is often the case with registrations in countries outside the U.S. (which typically do not require proof of use to support a registration), the registrations cover a comically broad list of goods.
So Messi’s performance in trademark protection is okay, but not nearly as spectacular as his skills with a soccer ball.
Messi confounds opponents with his dribbling skills.
Photo by LG전자, at Available here, used under CC BY 2.0.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo obviously has game in the trademark protection field as well as on the pitch. A search of the WIPO database shows a total of 47 active registrations or pending applications worldwide, for marks incorporating the name CRISTIANO RONALDO or CR7 (his initials plus his jersey number). Fifteen of those are in the U.S. Some are owned by Cristiano Ronaldo himself, and others owned by entities that claim to have his consent to use the mark (rather than some uninvited interloper trying to cash in on the name).
Most of Cristiano Ronaldo’s U.S. applications are “intent to use” applications, meaning he was not using the mark with all of the listed goods at the time the application was filed. As a result, those look a little like some of the overseas registrations, claiming an intent to use the mark with a long list of goods. Most of the listed goods are plausible enough, including sporting equipment, toys and games, sports camps, various generally sports-related entertainment services, along with various paper goods, soaps and personal grooming products, hair styling products, perfumes, etc. etc. A European Union registration covers clothing, footwear, various online retailing services, and educational services.
By our measure, Cristiano Ronaldo wins the trademark protection cup. Perhaps he can take comfort in that victory as he watches the last four teams battle for the World Cup. And maybe four years from now, we’ll have to consider the trademark performance of England’s Harry Kane or France’s Kylian Mbappe, both of whom have been excellent in World Cup play.